Jakarta claims deal with Sri Lankan asylum se


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08-04-2010 08:06 AM


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08-04-2010 08:06 AM



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Jakarta claims deal with Sri Lankan asylum se -

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Jakarta claims deal with Sri Lankan asylum seekers

Kerri Ritchie reported this story on Thursday, April 8, 2010 08:08:00

TONY EASTLEY: There are mixed signals coming out of Indonesia over whether the standoff between the
Indonesian Government and a boatload of Sri Lankan asylum seekers has been resolved.

For the past six months the asylum seekers have steadfastly refused to leave the Indonesian port of
Merak until they're given a new country to live in.

The head of Indonesia's diplomatic security told the ABC all 181 asylum seekers on board the boat
have agreed to leave. He says they accepted an offer of temporary accommodation ashore.

However the asylum seekers maintain they were told they had five days to consider their options,
and as the ABC's Kerri Ritchie reports from Jakarta, there's some debate about what type of
accommodation they will be moved to.

KERRI RITCHIE: For six long months, the Sri Lankans have refused to leave the port of Merak, a few
hours drive from Jakarta.

The head of Indonesia's Diplomatic Security, Sujatmiko, described it as an embarrassing situation
but he believes it's now been resolved.

He says with help from UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) officials he convinced
the asylum seekers to accept an offer of temporary accommodation.

He wouldn't say if that meant a detention centre.

SUJATMIKO: We convince them. We are using very nice approach, even sometime I make joke and I think
this is perhaps that make them happy. So I invited 10 people - five women, five men - to talk with
us. We explain everything with interpret in Tamil. Then we ask those 10 people to go to all,
majority of them, explain to them. I give 20 minutes and they come back and they said okay.

KERRI RITCHIE: The Sri Lankans were intercepted en route to Australia, after Kevin Rudd made a
phone call to Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Sujatmiko says the asylum seekers will be bussed to temporary accommodation sometime this week.

SUJATMIKO: We are going to combine them in the same accommodation. We have to finish the process
then we can disclose to you.

KERRI RITCHIE: You can guarantee at the moment that they won't go to a detention centre?

SUJATMIKO: I said we are going to put them in a temporary accommodation. Even in Australia, this
kind of people will be put in detention centres, isn't it?

For Indonesian Government these are illegal people, illegal migrants and the place for them is
actually the jail. But we are not going to do that. We are going to have these people, the
suffering people and I think as long as they are cooperating we will continue to assist them in the
process of verification as well as resettlement process.

KERRI RITCHIE: But one asylum seeker on board the boat, Nimal, says he's confused. He says none of
the officials could tell him exactly where they would be going and he thought they had five days to

NIMAL: They didn't tell us anything. That's why I'm telling. We didn't get a clear message from
them. They didn't ever ask any questions.

KERRI RITCHIE: While confusion reigns, Sujatmiko says he's disappointed with the Australian
response. He says he told the Australian ambassador in Jakarta he needed help talking to the asylum
seekers but no one from the Australian embassy bothered to show up.

SUJATMIKO: I invite the Australian Government to send, the Australian embassy to send one or two
officials together with us but until this morning nobody coming from the Embassy of Australia. So
we thought that we will very much appreciate if Australia involved in this process because this is
not only Indonesian problem.

KERRI RITCHIE: The response from the Australian Embassy in Jakarta was no comment.

TONY EASTLEY: Kerri Ritchie in Jakarta.